Mom Bonus, less than 8 hours of tv achievement

Give yourself a mom bonus if your kid(s) watch less than 8 hours of tv a day (this includes streaming video on a computer/tablet/smartphone, video games and regular television, etc.)

That’s the current average for American children.  Teens bring it up by having an average of around 10 hours per day, but it’s not exactly low for non-school-age children either.

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Another hidden cost of modern parenting–the Mom Commute

Before I had kids, I used to look around at the fatigued SAHMs and working mothers around me and I thought (if I thought about it at all) that a lot of the things they did were optional and not really necessary to the kid-raising life.

Well, I was wrong.

The Mom commute has a long history in American society, but it wasn’t as broadly required in the first half of the 20th century. And there were still ways to avoid the worst of it in the second half via carpooling and roping in still-available neighbors, relatives and friends. And also, for a short window of time, nannies. During peak working mother, around the late 1980s and early 1990s, the first wave of amnestied Hispanic women made a labor pool for domestic work that included doing a lot of the driving. And contrary to the story about them, during that window of time, the wages they were paid were decent and many received real benefits as well. Minimum wage was very low and so (for that brief window of time), paying twice minimum wage was hard, but not completely brutalizing the old finances and the freshly amnestied immigrants were happy to get comparatively generous wages for the work. Things changed with the dotcom era, of course, but a roughly ten year window of being able to pay generously for childcare and still have a lot of money left over distorted perspective later.

Anyway, while a bit of a digression, the point is that now in the 21st century, all the social bonds and stuff have corroded and the mom commute is pretty much a requirement for all moms, even pretty rural ones. It’s not even about the dreaded activities, it’s that getting your kids around other kids and getting them the educational resources they’re supposed to have, even if they’re public schooled involves a lot of commuting (even if you can pop them on the bus in theory).

This is a pretty major fertility shredder and it’s also a reason a lot of married households want two very comfortable cars. They also need them because the Mom Commute tends to not be in the same directions as the Work Commute. The schools and kid stuff are in one part of the city/metro area/county, but the jobs (including mom’s if she works outside the home too) tend to be somewhere else. That includes teachers, who used to be able to easily work in the district their kids were in and now rarely can.

Giving up the Mom Commute really does mean for most married mothers agreeing to a truly astonishing level of isolation and dependence on mass media and social media for themselves and their children and hard limits on physical activity as well. But you never really hear about it, even though that much driving is health-damaging and poorly compatible with keeping the old figure in tiptop shape.

Women CANNOT mother alone

There, I said it.  Women simply can’t do it.  Either the village is coming along for the ride of raising your kid(s) by coercion or they’re coming along willingly, but it’s still going to happen.  There are news articles from time to time about women that expect kids’ toy or clothing shops in a mall to watch their children for several hours while they go buy their own stuff.  These women are single mothers and they sure aren’t dithering about how terrible it is to have a strange person keep an eye on your kid for a couple of hours.  This is the brutality of making motherhood so hard that only women who really really really want children or are really really feckless will do it.  The women who become single mothers are the ones who will just create situations where other people have to help out.  The women who marry first are more likely to wilt alone until they crack under the strain.

In a bizarre confluence of toxicity, the worst sorts of “traditional” or “conservative” narratives on mothering as something a woman does alone intersect with attachment parenting, which also presents mothering as something a woman does alone (sometimes not even bathing or meeting other private needs without the child physically on her body).  In both cases, women are told “it’s going to destroy your children to have anyone else feed, hug, kiss or show affection and other care needs to them, even (in the most extreme forms of this narrative) your own husband”.

Forcing women to take the burden of caring for their own children as if it’s normal to care solely and with complete emotional absorption for your own specific children is another one of the reasons women have fewer children than they used to.

Single mothers forcing the issue in the opposite direction, demanding lots of concessions and tolerance doesn’t always work out for them, but it reveals that when facing having to mother alone literally, women are very quick to try their darndest to avoid that.

 

The primary c-section obstacle to large families

This one will be a quickie because state level data is a huge headache to assemble, but nationally, about 20-25% of first births are primary c-sections. About 33% of births each year are c-sections, but the exact amount which are first births varies more year to year.  Further, starting that way limits the feasible number of births to no more than 6, with 3-4 being much more typical.  After four c-sections, the risk of death to either/both of mom and baby or catastrophic surgery like a preterm c-section/hysterectomy combo gets up to the level of open-heart surgery (well north of 20%, far, far, far higher than the half a percent (.5%) risk of rupture only (not death and not catastrophic surgery, rupture may mean forceps or vacuum delivery for the infant and/or another c-section) for VBAC after one section that leads many hospitals to deny women access to VBAC .

Some women (pretty much all conservative Christian or Mormon women) successfully find a doctor willing to perform the surgery after 4 c-sections, and some of those women die.  It’s a small group, so I’m not going to claim you’re guaranteed to die if you have five or six c-sections and zero vaginal deliveries.  So few women “go there” it’s not easy to know.  But you will struggle to find a doctor to take on your pregnancy past four and increasingly past three sections and you will be very very very strongly pushed to have a hysterectomy or tube tying after the second, third or fourth c-section delivery.

I basically hear zip, zilch, zero about this from conservatives claiming people have smaller families these days due to selfishness and love of money and vacations.  You’d think they would pay attention to this sort of massive obstacle to a plurality of women having large families.

SAHMs don’t save on childcare because working mothers don’t pay retail price for childcare.

Basically what it says on the tin.

Working mothers don’t pay retail rates for childcare. Like with formula feeding where people will cheerfully buy you formula but won’t help out with extra food if you breastfeed, people are more willing to help out with free or cut-rate childcare if you have any job outside the home, including SAHMs offering below-market childcare to working mothers.  Yep, that’s a thing, to be expanded on in an upcoming post.

Also, working mothers are pushier about getting those discounts. There was a fairly shocking story a few years ago about a working woman just shoving her kid at a neighbor she’d never met until that day so she could go to work. There was a more recent story in Florida (go Florida, earn that fark tag!) about a woman running a less than legal daycare with exotic poisonous snakes on the premises and a higher than legal kid/caregiver ratio. IIRC that daycare had a waiting list.

About a third of working women with children under 18 use gramma/auntie specifically among relatives for childcare.  This contributes to formula use in the United States.  If you throw in other relatives or friends helping with childcare, you get up to nearly 50%.  That’s working mothers’ access to discounted childcare: nearly half get it cheap or free from friends and relatives.  As for the half not using gramma or cousin Susy, daycare owners and nannies can tell you all the horror stories about delays on payment from double income households and single mother households.  But even when they don’t commit crime to get cheaper childcare, the tax system gives them and their employers thousands of dollars specifically to use daycare centers.

Basically the only working mothers who fork out retail prices are coastal women not living near relatives or friends who only put their kids in the right sort of diverse daycare center for childcare.  And sure, they pay for the privilege, but they a tiny sliver of all working mothers.

Women should stay home with kids as the societal norm.  It’s better for everyone.  But under the current social setup, women can kindasorta afford to work outside the home when their kids are little precisely because a lot of under the table subsidy is given to them to support that.  Little is gained from the kabuki theater of “Jane and her husband crunched the numbers and daycare is expensive and would leave her with only 5k per year, so that’s why she stays home with her kids.”  It’s kabuki because if Jane said she was going back to work because Joe’s hours were cut 40%, she would find a raft of free or nearly-free childcare mysteriously washing up at her doorstep that is completely absent for most conservative Christian SAHMs.  So Jane would earn a lot more than 5k per year in the first place.  And of course, kids age out of infant and toddler childcare anyway.

But the real hole in this common economic argument for mothers staying home with small children isn’t that society currently props up working outside the home with implicit and explicit support, it’s that when husbands make that argument, this is what they are saying to their wives, the mothers of their children.

“You get nothing for staying home except being with your children 24/7.  You get no break, you get no adult socialization, you get no relief or time alone.  I as your husband don’t really have the resources to properly support your administration of the domestic sphere.  I refuse to earn enough money for you to get domestic help as needed and I refuse to let you earn that money even though we just did the math and you totally would earn enough to pay for that support. I don’t value a comfortable home and a rested wife that much, because these things won’t happen if you stay home for several years or a decade plus having babies and never getting to use the bathroom alone, be treated as an adult by other adults including me or have a real family dinner you eat peacefully at a table.  And you should take this deal, and become an exhausted, overworked wreck, possibly even overweight and invariably with health issues because I’m waving the temporary issue of childcare costs for a few years in your face. ”

Because the subsidy to working mothers is mostly hidden and secret, people can pretend it doesn’t really exist.  But it is, right now, a crummy deal to stay home with little kids if you’re most women married to most men in America.  The money isn’t there to paper over the difficulties.  The family support is mostly absent among American-born folks who think nothing of moving cross-country for work.  And keeping up the pretense that “childcare/daycare costs” are such a breaking point just maintains the status quo for wealthier families who can afford to provide household help for their SAHMs and do.  It also limits family formation because a lot of women can see the acceptable fringe mothers at church who took the deal and had six or eight kids this way and they quietly contracept themselves into only having 3, 2, or even just one.

The current, real situation is that women get to be treated as adults as a default and norm if they work outside the home, no matter how many kids they have.  It’s just that the general anti-natal arrangement of society (car seats, for example, are no longer built-in to cars due to legal issues rather than safety problems) means not having that many as a working mother.  And to back this up, everyone (including SAHMs) falls all over themselves to make it easier for mothers of toddlers to hold jobs outside the home at even minimum wage income levels.

Anyway this is getting too long and wandering into the topic of how SAHMs contribute to the problem by providing cut-rate childcare, so I’ll just do a follow up post on that aspect of the matter.  Stay home because it’s worth modelling for your kids and grandkids, so that we can get back to a society where it’s normal and women aren’t isolated and alone who choose it.  It’s not saving that much childcare money, they aren’t toddlers forever and it’s still important to stay home after they age out of school-age or teenagerhood,  and done with real support, some money might well be spent anyway on occasional or regular domestic help depending on the relatives-nearby situation.  Sometimes economic arguments aren’t the ones we should be jumping for.

The anti-natalism of primary c-sections.

About a third of all deliveries in America are c-sections, and a majority of those are primary c-sections.  The anti-natalism isn’t in women having c-sections so much as the pressure for women to accept a primary c-section.  This wouldn’t be possible without the subtext that women shouldn’t have more than two children, three at most, a view that is standard American these days.  It also wouldn’t be possible without the medical community downplaying the risks of c-sections.  The reality is that c-sections limit how many children a woman can reasonably risk conceiving and carrying to term.  While there are risks to naturally delivering seven or eight or ten children, those risks are significantly lower than the ones c-sections introduce through repeated surgical trauma and scarring.  However, those risks don’t come into play for the average woman having c-sections until she’s looking at more than three of them.  After three c-sections, the risk of losing the baby shoots up (the scarring makes it hard for the placenta to seat itself, increasing likelihood of fetal demise) along with the risk of premature delivery or catastrophic delivery complications like placental abruption.

This is not communicated to women when they are “encouraged” to have a primary c-section after say ten or twelve hours of labor.  Thus, many women who would like to keep open the possibility of having a larger family are limited by a choice they were given misleading information about by medical professionals advocating approved choices rather than patients’ choices.  It is possible to have 4-6 c-sections and deliver the children safely, but it’s also a range where health and life risks for both mother and baby come into play at rates exceeding 20%.  For perspective, women are not allowed to attempt natural delivery after a c-section in most American hospitals (VBAC) due to a 1% risk of rupture (which baby and mother typically survive without complications).  Yet women are not presented with the data that way.  And they certainly aren’t told that a primary c-section means probably not having more than three or four children liveborn and term.  A primary c-section is not terribly risky, and neither is a second one, compared to natural delivery.  But they are slightly higher risk and on average harder to recover from than natural deliveries.

Combined with the delaying of childbearing, telling women in their late 20s and early 30s that a primary c-section is no big deal is to consign those women to fewer children than they might otherwise be able to have even starting in their early 30s and further, to leave them struggling with (on average) more difficult recovery while struggling with a newborn.  That also leads to fewer children born at the margins.  It’s just anti-natalist.  This isn’t to say that c-sections, including primary ones, aren’t sometimes medically necessary.  But many primary c-sections are a judgment call rather than “have to cut the baby out NOW”, and the judgment goes in one direction due to the general distaste culture-wide for having enough little taxpayers to fund society.